Ever since my first visit to Popov back in 2014 I’ve been an admirer of what Popov Winery, nestled in the heart of the Tikveš region, just north of Kavardarci, are trying to achieve. This small boutique winery is well worth following. Their white wines in particular are fresh, quirky, laden with fruit and alive with a mineral personality that’s rarely seen in Macedonia. Under the stewardship of winemaker Petr X they are one of just a handful of wineries that seem genuinely interested in showcasing the individual character of their territory.
In 2001 Vladislav and Zoja Popovi purchased their first vineyard, a parcel of just over a hectare close to the village of Sopot and not far from the larger town of Kavadarci. Despite the modest beginnings, the project gained momentum and in 2003 work on a new winery was completed. By 2009 the Popov estate had grown to encompass 45 hectares (all within the vicinity of Sopot) and the winery could boast the potential to produce up to 300,000 bottles a year.
Their most recognised site is in the village of Smolnik where the soils are a mix of clay and stone and it is here that they grow their flagship Chardonnay from vines planted about fifteen years ago. In the hot months the soils help retain moisture and alleviate pressure on the vines but nevertheless, this a continental expression of the grape. The white wines naturally carry the warm climate characteristics of the Tikveš region where summers are often scorching hot with temperatures approaching 40 degrees.
Yet, Chardonnay from the Smolnik site in particular seems to be able to produce wines that are more restrained than others in the region. While it is rich and tropical with plenty of body, the fruit notes are complex and the wines are balanced, somehow finding just an extra touch of freshness. Their other notable vineyard site is in Vrshnik where Pinot Grigio is cultivated. There is much more sand here and this makes for a fresher, greener wine.
Some basic red wines are produced but the more serious wines are those that spend time in barrique in custom built underground cellar. I’ve been following wines such as the 2009 Gran Cuvée for almost a decade and have watched with fascination the development and evolution of the red grapes. The winery grows Temjanika, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Žilavka, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Vranec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.